Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Real Madrid`s soccer star, Cristiano Ronaldo, named ambassador for Bali-based Forum Peduli Mangrove (Mangrove Care Forum), has agreed to champion the conservation of mangroves in Indonesia, the Artha Graha Peduli Foundation announced Monday.

In its press release made available to Antara in Jakarta, the Foundation said the Forum Peduli Mangrove is supported by five community empowerment organizations from regencies in the southern part of Benoa Bay in Bali.

The Forum, to be launched in the next two months, aims to raise public awareness of the importance of conserving mangrove forests, to encourage community action to clean and preserve them, and to restore the biodiversity of the mangrove ecosystem.

Ronaldo`s appointment as ambassador for the Forum was sealed at a meeting in Madrid on Friday (March 8) between the Real Madrid star and Tomy Winata who was in Europe to attend the 56th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the central policy making body of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which also provides forms of cooperation applying to wildlife and forest crimes.

Winata was in Madrid with Gories Mere, former chief of the Indonesia`s National Narcotics Board (BNN).

"I am absolutely delighted that Ronaldo has agreed to support our cause to conserve mangrove forests in Indonesia. He is an ideal ambassador for mangrove conservation as he has mass appeal and we want the message of Save Mangrove, Save Earth to reach the young and old, rich and poor," Winata said.

"Mangrove conservation is an important but neglected area of conservation. We are running out of time. The world is losing mangroves at an alarming rate. The situation in Indonesia is particularly dire, we have lost more than two million hectares of our mangrove areas. Conserving mangroves is not only about protecting the environment but also the livelihood of many villagers," he said.

Indonesia`s Forestry Ministry estimates that the country has over nine million hectares of mangrove forests, of which some 70 per cent has been lost to shrimp farming, oil palm plantations, rural and urban redevelopment.

Ronaldo said: "I am privileged to be able to play a role in conserving mangroves in Indonesia. I was in Aceh after the 2004 tsunami and the devastation I saw left a deep impression. I understand that in places where there were mangroves to provide the ecosystem buffer against high waves, more lives were saved and less damage sustained."

Winata founded the Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation (TWNC) 16 years ago, a conservation and rehabilitation sanctuary where wildlife, trees, flora and fauna, marine life, corals, are protected. It is set over 44,500 hectares of land and 14,500 hectares of sea on the southern tip of Sumatra.

TWNC has over 3,000 hectares of mangrove forests spread over two lakes, and is famed for its project to save and rehabilitate the Sumatran tigers, which are fast facing extinction.

TWNC also works with the Indonesian government to provide post-rehab facilities for drug addicts. Its initiatives have been commended by the UNODC and will be showcased at the forthcoming Commission on Narcotic Drugs session in Vienna this month.

Editor: Jafar M Sidik
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